Chickenpox vaccine should be given to toddlers on the NHS, say health chiefs
In a statement, the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) recommended that the jab be given to children in two doses at age 12 months and 18 months.
It said data from countries suggests the vaccine, also known as the varicella jab, would dramatically reduce circulating chickenpox and prevent most severe cases in children.
Chickenpox is a common illness that usually affects children but can be caught at any age. The main symptom is an itchy, spotty rash that appears on the body.
The virus is highly contagious and spreads easily from person to person. It usually gets better by itself after 1 to 2 weeks without needing to see a GP.
The JCVI has also recommended a temporary catch-up programme for older children be included in the routine immunisation programme.
If introduced, it would bring the UK in line with other European countries which already offer the jab to children.
In the UK, vaccination is only available to those who demonstrate a clinical need – such as healthy people not immune to chickenpox who are in close contact with someone with a weakened immune system.
As a result, parents have had to pay up to £200 to get their child vaccinated against the virus. Many hold "pox parties" to let their children catch the virus early.
Professor Sir Andrew Pollard, chairman of the JCVI, said: “Chickenpox is well known, and most parents will probably consider it a common and mild illness among children.
“But for some babies, young children and even adults, chickenpox or its complications can be very serious, resulting in hospitalisation and even death.
“Adding the varicella vaccine to the childhood immunisation programme will dramatically reduce the number of chickenpox cases in the community, leading to far fewer of those tragic, more serious cases.
“We now have decades of evidence from the US and other countries showing that introducing this programme is safe, effective and will have a really positive impact on the health of young children.”
Source: Daniel Keane, Yahoo Life UK